May 14, 2010
The Sacred Heart University women's rowing squad made program history competing at the annual Dad Vail Championships held in Philadelphia, PA to wrap up their 2009-10 season. The Pioneers achieved a program milestone, placing its first boat into the Grand Finals at the event. The SHU lightweight 4+ crew out battled the crew from Georgia Tech on the way to a second place finish and a qualifying spot in the finals.
With over 100 schools and nearly 3,500 competitors from across the country the Dad Vail is the largest spring championship of its kind. The regatta is a two day event with heats held on Friday and semifinals and finals on Saturday. Sacred Heart entered three boats at the event, a Varsity 4+, a Lightweight Varsity 4+, and a Novice 8+.
"Over half the field is eliminated in Fridays heats," stated head coach Mike Kerner. "The goal for all of the boats is to try and advance out of Friday's heats and have the opportunity to race on Saturday. It has only been done a few times in our program's history so we knew it wasn't going to be easy."
The lightweight 4+ crew of freshman Kaitlin Rivest (Ludlow, MA), sophomore Danielle French (Northport, NY), freshman Danielle Palmaccio (Yorktown Heights, NY), freshman Kiki Zambelli (Lebanon, NJ) and freshman Lynn Ciccarelli (Holmdel, NJ) needed to finish in the top-two in their heat to advance to Saturday's finals and have a chance to race for the medals. A fast University of Pittsburgh crew got out in front of the field early and Sacred Heart was left battling with Georgia Tech for the final qualifying spot. The crew finished second in a time of 8:35.0 to become the first boat in the history of SHU rowing to advance to the Grand Finals at the Dad Vail Regatta.
"It was a really exciting race to watch from the sidelines," Kerner commented. "It was great to see our athletes being pushed hard by another crew and responding to the challenge."
The Final was raced Saturday afternoon after a brief weather delay due to high winds. The Pioneers were locked on to the starting boat when gusts of wind up to 25 - 45 mph forced the race to be postponed. After about an hour delay the winds calmed slightly allowing the racing to resume. The top-three boats jumped on the field early with the Canadian University, Brock, leading the way to win in a time of 8:10.3. Sacred Heart finished fifth overall in a time of 8:43.4.
"Having a chance to race in the finals at the Dad Vail was a huge opportunity for us," said the head coach. "Anytime you have a boat break through to the next level it's a big confidence builder for a program. With as young of a squad as we have this year the experience they gained will be invaluable to the development of the team moving forward."
The Varsity 4+ raced early on Friday morning and needed to place in the top 3 to advance to the semifinals. The boat comprised of senior Mary Beth Reusche (Media, PA), junior Devon Clark (Hawthorne, NJ), Pampillonio, sophomore Caroline Holland (Shrewsbury, MA) and Rivest were in qualifying position early but faded to finish fifth in the heat and were eliminated.
The Novice 8+ comprised of freshmen Heather Torrey (Shoreham, NY), Kristen Brozek (Acton, MA), Caroline Klimm (Barnstable, MA), Amanda Casey (Bronx, NY), Elizabeth Cho (Middletown, CT), Lindsay New (White Plains, NY), Sarah Prizzia (Kingston, NY), Annemarie A'Hearn (Mahopac, NY) and Alanna Cofrancesco (Meriden, CT) shared a similar fate as the varsity 4+ placing fifth in their heat as well.
"It's always disappointing when your season ends but our student-athletes raced really hard and they didn't hold back," commented Kerner. "We did everything we could to hang with the pack in those races but were just up against some faster crews. We accomplished a lot this year and have a lot to be proud of."